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By | Lucky Letcord Podcast | Wednesday September 15, 2021

Hall of Fame tennis journalist Steve Flink joins the Lucky Letcord Podcast to break down the final weekend of the 2021 US Open. Join us for a lengthy discussion on Daniil Medvedev’s victory over Novak Djokovic, and Emma Raducunu’s triumph in the women’s final against Leylah Fernandez.

We discuss Novak Djokovic’s performance in Sunday’s final and try to put it in perspective. The World No.1 struggled to find his best form against Medvedev while the Russian took a giant step as a big match player with a picture perfect serving display. What does it mean for Djokovic’s legacy and what will Medvedev’s dominant victory due to the Serbian’s invincible aura? What’s the next step for Medvedev and Djokovic?

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We continue with an in-depth discussion of the women’s final, embarking on breakdowns of Raducanu’s and Fernandez’s games, and making sense of the sheer improbability of their performance. What does it mean for women’s tennis going forward, and what will be next for the two teenagers who played the first all-unseeded final in Grand Slam singles history.

Quotes from Steve Flink:

On Djokovic’s return game in the final, compared to the earlier rounds:

"He faced great servers in Berrettini and Zverev in the quarters and semis and look what he was able to do on the return against them over the course of the match. Obviously longer matches and it helped. He wore them out in some senses, but part of it too was that he was sharper, he was reading the serve better."

On the enormity of Djokovic’s achievement, even as he fell short of the Grand Slam:

"Obviously you have to earn it, so you can't say he deserved it until he got it. But had he done it, he would have been so worthy of the honor, because he is in this era the ultimate all-surface player. There's a little more sameness with the balls, the speed of the courts for a lot of reasons. This is not like the Laver era when Rod won in 1969, obviously there were three majors on grass back then. The other three were all on grass except for Roland Garros on the clay, but there was a much bigger difference as there was in the Sampras era, the grass played faster, there was a harder transition for the players from surface to surface I think."

On Djokovic’s all-surface superiority:

"However that still doesn't change the fact that Djokovic is very versatile and transitional, he's able to go from surface to surface better, I think, than Rafa or Roger in a lot of ways, and that's why he put himself within reach of this."

What’s next for Novak?

"Yes I think this will motivate him even more. I think had he won the Grand Slam there would have been a part of him that might have even... I know it sounds strange... but a part of him might have wanted to retire. Because to have 21, plus the Grand Slam, his case would have been there even if Rafa had tied him or gone past him."

"I think it would have been immensely fulfilling. But now, the engines of motivation remain, it's only going to increase his desire to win more because he'll want to make sure he goes to 21, 22, 23 - as far as he can get - and also to make sure he does keep himself not easy with Rafa but ahead of Rafa." On whether other NextGen players will take confidence in the fact that Djokovic has now lost to one of their generation in a major final.

Will the Next Gen be motivated after Medvedev's triumph?

"They'll be encouraged. Zverev will feel it. Tsitsipas will. They'll be saying to themselves, that could have been me. Daniil is a great player but so am I. Yes it will open up a window in their minds to some degree. Conversely, it wasn't the best Djokovic and they wish they could have played him on a day when he was struggling inordinately. Yes, Daniil will encourage them because they have been waiting for a moment like this. It was different with Thiem last year at the Open. Thiem didn't go through Novak. Novak had been disqualified, Thiem beat Zverev in the finals - it was a different king of feeling, it was a great accomplishment for him to get on the board but not the same as this, to go right through Novak Djokovic to get your first major."

On the next step for Medvedev:

"But they don't know what the effect is going to be on Medvedev himself. Maybe it leads Medvedev to be significantly better than them, maybe he starts thwarting them, and they are trying to beat Medvedev in the semis and finals of majors - that's the fascinating part of it. Does it lead Medvedev to another level where he starts winning majors regularly and establishes himself over time, next year or the year after, as the best player in the world, to get to No.1 and start winning multiple majors."

On the rise of Raducanu and Fernandez:

"I think those two are going to create a golden future for women's tennis. I sure hope so because we're seeing so much musical chairs. The fact that you don't get that much continuity, you don't know what's going to happen major to major, some players come along and win a major and then we don't hear much from them for the next several Grand Slam events. That becomes frustrating, but these two being so young at 18 and 19, I don't see why we don't see the makings here of a major rivalry in women's tennis in the years to come."

"Think of how good they are going to be at 21 and 22, as opposed to 18 and 19, after they've gained that experience. So I'm hoping that we get 2025 or 2026 and we are watching them play a fourth or fifth major final against each other. Something along those lines, that we get something that enduring and important in women's tennis from these two young players who lit up Arthur Ashe Stadium in their final round clash."

On the strengths of both women’s singles finalists:

"Fernandez with that cagey left-handed style, the ability to change direction in a rally, to come in unexpectedly, to show both touch and sufficient and great match-playing skills, and then you have Raducanu who, to me, has very few holes in her game, she doesn't try to be overly fancy, but she constructs points with a clear mind and she's very sound off both sides, her returns are great, serve is very good and is going to get much better."

On the joy of being in Flushing Meadows to take in the action live:

"This time it was recovering the feeling of going out and really enjoying the experience of sitting in Ashe and watching history unfold, however it did. I was very happy to be back out on site and the full crowds made it all the more enjoyable."


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